Local News

N.C. State chancellor calls for Mary Easley's resignation

Posted May 18, 2009 11:24 a.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2009 10:00 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina State University Chancellor James Oblinger on Monday urged the wife of former Gov. Mike Easley to leave her university post.

The move comes in the wake of the resignation of two N.C. State officials and federal and state investigations into the former governor's dealings with friends and campaign donors.

Oblinger said her resignation would be in the university's best interests and that he had discussed the issue with her. He declined to comment further, calling it a personnel issue.

University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles supports Oblinger's belief that Mary Easley should resign, UNC system spokeswoman Joni Worthington said.

Mary Easley couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

If she doesn't resign, Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger said he would work to eliminate state funding for her job.

Mary Easley began working as a part-time lecturer at N.C. State in 2002. Since 2005, she has served as an executive-in-residence and senior lecturer, developing the Millennium Seminars speakers program and teaching a graduate course in public administration and courses in the Administrative Officers Management Program, which provides leadership training to law enforcement officers.

Last year, she received an 88 percent pay increase, to $170,000 a year. N.C. State officials defended the move, saying she had taken on additional duties, such as directing pre-law services at the university and serving as a liaison to area law firms and law schools at other universities as she developed a dual degree program.

She signed a five-year contract when she got her pay raise. It's not known whether there is a buyout provision in the contract, which could make getting her to leave a costly proposition for N.C. State.

Provost Larry Nielsen, who hired Mary Easley, submitted his resignation on Thursday, citing the stress over questions about the hiring and his subsequent promotion to provost. The resignation takes effect on Friday, when Nielsen will take a faculty position in N.C. State's College of Natural Resources.

McQueen Campbell resigned Friday as chairman of N.C. State's Board of Trustees. Mike Easley twice appointed Campbell to the board and, according to published reports, often flew in Campbell's private plane.

The Board of Trustees has scheduled a special meeting for 5:15 p.m. Wednesday. Members are expected to name a new chairman.

Neilsen and Campbell have maintained they did nothing wrong in Mary Easley's hiring, although Campbell did tell Bowles last week that, when N.C. State officials were looking for someone to oversee the speakers series, he mentioned to Oblinger that Mary Easley was looking for a new job.

Oblinger said last week that he couldn't recall how Mary Easley's name came up in the search for a Millennium Seminars director, but he said she had the network of contacts the university needed in that position.

"I do know one thing for sure, that if I had felt any push, I would remember that," Oblinger said Monday.

On Friday, the State Board of Elections launched a criminal investigation into Mike Easley's campaign finances, and the FBI subpoenaed the former governor's travel records from the state Highway Patrol, which provides a security detail for the first family.

Federal investigators already have looked into vehicles provided to the Easley family while Mike Easley was governor and into a land deal he made on the coast.

Mike Easley issued a statement Saturday in which he said he was "comfortable with the federal authorities collecting and reviewing all records relating to my 30 years of public service to the people of North Carolina."

A federal grand jury meets in Raleigh on Wednesday, but it's not known whether any evidence in the Easley investigation would be presented.